Giving an Oath

Yesterday I was officially sworn in as a volunteer for the Peace Corps. 10 long weeks of training in country had prepared me for this moment, yet it felt uniquely surreal. The morning came as any other in the hotel. We all sat around our breakfasts and told jokes. I remember Meagen being excited that field hockey was being covered on the New Zealand news that was on in the room. The chaos began when we needed to move our belongings to the office once checked out. An intense game of tetris was started in the office below as refrigerators, cabinets, and massive bags made their way in. The hallways were condensed to one-way pathways, which made travel treacherous. Once everything was brought down from the rooms we were herded over to the convention center for our swearing in.

The ceremony was set to begin at 9:00am, but in true island form we were sitting in the holding room at this time. Eventually, we were led into a rather large conference room and were placed upon a stage. Before us sat our host families, principals, Peace Corps staff, and other delegates. Across from us on stage sat the Ambassador, The Head of the Ministry of Education, and our Peace Corps Country Director.

Mafi, our training manager, kicked the party off with introductions and a short speech. We had an opening prayer by a fellow volunteer, Chan, and then we performed our practiced hymn. When we began to sing the entire room joined in and filled the room with the beautiful sound of Samoan singing. At this time the ceremony began to fly by. We had several volunteers give speech in thanks to the village of Sa’anapu, the schools, and the Peace Corps staff. When their speeches concluded we performed a traditional Samoan dance we have been practicing for weeks. After hours of practice we were finally ready to perform for our audience. I am not saying we were perfect, but it was about as good as it was going to get. The dance was rambunctious and full of laughter. The women danced gracefully in the front using light hand movements and endless smiles. Us men in the back were a different story. Our movements involved stomping, clapping, and a bit of yelling. Needless to say we were having a good time.

The grand finale came in the form of an oath. The Ambassador stood before us on stage and had us recite an oath to responsibly fulfill the duties as a volunteer of the Peace Corps. Strangely enough this happened to be the exact same oath that many of my friends had to recite while commissioning into the United States Army. I almost wished my father for nostalgia sake. Once the ceremony ended we funneled our way downstairs for a reception. I received many ulas and a new shirt from my pule(principal) upon leaving the stage. With the impending goodbyes many of us were snapping as many pictures as possible.

When we finished eating my pule and a member of our education committee drove me back to the office to acquire my household items. Upon our arrival we discovered the office to be the hub of much activity. People were running in and out to load vehicles of all nature to their brims. I was happy that I did not do all of my needed shopping, as there was no way all the items would have fit in our car. We packed the car to its absolute max, and then I gave my goodbyes. This part was particularly heart breaking as I know I won’t see many of these amazing people for sometime. I wanted to say goodbye to everyone, but in the chaos I wasn’t able to and sadly had to walk out the door.

I tried to prepare myself for this moment, but this was not possible. Nothing you do will prepare you to say goodbye to people who have been your support system for so long. I know this very well with past instances. As we drove up the coast and into the hills I remember smiling as I reflected on the past several months. As a group we had gone through our highs and lows. We had accomplished a great deal and learned so much about each other. When we pulled into my fale (home) I distinctly thought to myself this isn’t the end, but the beginning of a wonderful journey.